22 July 2013

God of love or God of wrath?

Several things have conspired to make me think a little about the wrath of God recently:

  • I am currently learning the tenor part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah for a performance in October., and one of Elijah’s arias, ‘Is not his word like a fire?' contains the very insistent and scarily memorable lines 'For God is angry, angry with the wicked ev’ry day’.
  • From time to time I drop in on Louis Kinsey’s blog, Coffee with Louis. Recently he asked the question ‘“Sometimes God gets Grumpy” Doesn’t He?’ [The short answer is ‘no’, grumpy is not a word that can appropriately be used of God.]
  • And while reading through a couple of psalms the other day I was struck by: ‘They provoked him to anger with their evil deeds’ (Psalm 106:29).

One of the perennial challenges for Christians is reconciling what the Bible has to say about the wrath of God with what it has to say about the love of God (e.g. ‘God is love’, 1 John 4:8). Are we sinners in the hands of an angry God? Or sinners in the hands of the God who is absolute love?

I think the way forward is precisely to emphasize that God is absolute love. Implicit in such an assertion is an assertion of the holiness of God. A God understood as absolute love is quiet simply incommensurable with evil. God and evil cannot coexist. And I read the Bible’s talk of God’s anger as a vivid way of expressing this ontological intolerance of evil. God and evil cannot mix. If God is love, for God to tolerate evil would be for God to cease to be God.

No comments: